Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Sun Red Sun - Lost Tracks
Badlands - Dusk
(Pony Canyon)

Sun Red Sun is the band Al Romano had going with a hot young vocalist named Ray Gillen, who had finished with Badlands and was halfway through SRS's debut when he died of AIDS five years ago. There's been the semi-offical first album from '95, the recent odds 'n' sods/alt. versions EP of Ray's sessions and now we've got a bigger, better glimpse into the band with all sorts of big shots on board, main collaborator being acrobatic vocalist John West. The music is thick, bluesy, bottom-heavy Ameri-metal, sort of early Savatage meets Deep Purple or '80s Kiss or sumthin', loaded with integrity, but somewhat gruff, regressive and ill-assembled, many metal styles buckling under the weight of these emotionally uncommitted high-end talents. But in the spirit of the title, there's four new tracks, plus some live stuff, even further betraying the necessity of some philosophical cohesion. Weird, quite necessary for the fans despite arguable overlap. Often perfect stadium rock but missing something: Ray. On the other hand, with Dusk, we get Ray in all is splendour. And I can't think of a record I would imagine asking the headbangin' genie in a bottle for more than a friggin' lost Badlands record, Dusk being the Japanese release of the shelved and doomed third. Badlands of course was one of the greatest blues metal outfits ever to walk God's green, this swansong featuring the Voodoo Highway line-up of Greg Chaisson, Jeff Martin, visually-impaired Ozzy axeman Jake Lee and deceased vocal master Ray Gillen. I dunno man, these guys could have been the next Zeppelin, or Aerosmith or James Gang or Bad Co. or something, Dusk containing all the six-shooting swagger we'd come to expect from this highly explosive but traditional, spontaneous but composed pack of four. Picture Corrosion Of Conformity tapped with the finesse of the Allmans, or Pagey dealt the discipline of the hair bands and their producers circa 1990. It all spells alcohol and fire, '70s volume and choking dust, that mushed up Mexican meal in the gatefold to Tres Hombres, or a Van Halen with Jim Dandy calling the shots. Lots of images, all of them soaring with the free spirit of rock 'n' roll. Oh yeah, Badlands had it, and so should you. Contact: crook-drecords.com or crecords@infoave.net.
Ratings 7, 9.5

XYZ - Hungry (Axe Killer)

XYZ's second record (EMI '91) was another competent spread that just borrowed for a blank composite make up. The band looked like Winger, sung like David Coverdale, Shake Down The Walls cloned Def Leppard, and When I Find Love copped Rainbow In The Dark, while adding your basic Whitesnake acoustic intro. Everything left is completely anonymous, mean, median and averaged. However this French CD reissue from '99 adds spiffed cardboard slipcover, the label's usual power-packed booklet, and one bonus track (a typically pilfered sort of Zep acoustic). Little in the way of art, although all the worthy hair band detailing was definitely there.
Rating 6.5

Dangerous Toys - Pissed
Dangerous Toys - the r-tist 4-merly known as dangerous toys
(both Deadline)

Losing the big label deal had knocked the bitescratchkick back into whipping boys Dangerous Toys. And '94's Pissed has most skeptics turned right 'round with its sprightly melodic upratchet metal. Big improvement here is strength of song and then up once more for chorus, a sound then caked with a less lethal level of the grime that saw Skid Row's Slave To The Grind melt party metal in its shiny shoes. The alcohol rockers steamroll, and the quiet moments genuflect at least towards a kind of Dollsy been-there-done-that sincerity sphere. Erstwhile, the band's decadent boogie had been muted to a hinted whiff of blues travel coating timeless hard rock, more a blasted smear of three decades than anything pinned to '80s tease-by-numbers stripmall metal. Potentially a spirited new directive for reeling and confused Hollyrockers, Pissed isn't so much angry as defiant. But there's a lavish look to '95's quizzical follow-up with the princely title, the band finding themselves driven into a commerce-corrupted about-faceoff with alt.grunge. However DT had grown and learned beyond what one might expect, tracks such as Pearl Jammy ballad Heard It All and melodically complex grungster The Numb proving that when bands from metal arrive in the new world, their work ethic holds them in good stead, kicking the stuffing out of lo-fi shoulder-stoopids through a combination of chops and hard-won road wisdoms. Redneck retros didn't care at the time how good DT was writing, and any thought of new fans quickly became wishful thinking. But the record is a boisterous neu-rock excursion for those who care, and considerably heavy and mindful of the '70s to boot.
Ratings 8, 8